How to Make Healthy Easter Chocolate Bliss Balls

The truth is, its hard to avoid all the Easter chocolate isn’t it? Despite the deliciousness, I do know that Easter eggs are jam packed with calories and it is very hard to stop at just one, especially the little teeny tiny ones.

Enter the Easter Chocolate Bliss Ball. The concept of ‘balls’ have become very popular over the last few years and it is very common to see them adorning the glass display cabinets of many a cafe. The thing is, although the ingredients in these so called ‘healthy and natural’ treats, may look good on paper they still contain a bunch of calories and are not actually healthy.

Todays recipe is my own for Easter Chocolate Bliss Balls and a modification on my Festive Chocolate Balls (which may contain a little alcohol…). These guys are so quick and easy and make the perfect Easter chocolate gift. If there are any left of course. These balls are high in fibre and a great source of healthy fats and antioxidants too.

Easter Chocolate Bliss Balls

Ingredients
10 Medjool dates + 8 dried apricots
2 tablespoons cacao powder
2 tablespoons desiccated coconut
1 cup raw hazelnuts or mixed seeds (sunflower, pumpkin) or
1 tablespoon chia seeds

Method
Throw ingredients into a food processor and blitz for a few minutes until nicely combined and sticky. Make tablespoons of the mixture into balls, roll in extra shredded coconut and enjoy.

Wishing you all a safe and hoppy Easter!

Incredible Health Benefits of Cauliflower

Some of my favourite childhood memories of food involve the humble cauliflower. The smell of this delicious vegetable baking in the oven smothered in a cheesy sauce, takes me straight back to my mum teaching me the basics of cooking. Of course, I know now that cauliflower is so much more than a friend to cheese, plus there are so many incredible health benefits to eating this tasty vegetable.

Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable from the Brassica family and close cousins to broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts. In the nutrition world, they pack a punch and can truly enhance your health and well-being.

Bring on the incredible benefits of cauliflower.

Fighting the Free Radicals

Cauliflower is a rich source of a particular group of antioxidants known as ‘indoles,’ which are linked to the prevention of a number of cancers including bladder, breast and colorectal. These antioxidants exert their protective effects by preventing damage to body cells and tissues. This damage is caused by free radicals which are produced in the presence of cigarette smoke, radiation, inflammation, UV light and extreme exercise. The indoles in cauliflower gobble up the free radicals and reduce damage to your cells and the risk of cancer. Although antioxidants can be found in supplement form, they are much more effective in whole food like cauliflower.

A Date with Detox

The human body is very clever but sometimes it needs a bit of help. Our natural detox system usually ticks along all by itself but we do need to give it adequate nutritional support. If unwanted toxins come sailing in and less than ideal choices are being made in the dietary department, we put ourselves at an increased risk of damage to our cells and lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, gastrointestinal disease and cancer.

Cauliflower does come to the rescue here as it is bursting with phytonutrients known as glucosinolates that help activate our detoxification system. They are the sulphur containing compounds that give cauliflower its distinctive aroma and taste and they also act as natural anti-inflammatories.

Come in Vitamin C

Vitamin C is essential for skin and brain health and is a powerful antioxidant to boot. Many people think oranges and berries when looking for Vitamin C but cauliflower has hidden talents in this area. Half a small cauliflower contains almost 60mg of Vitamin C compared to 69mg in a medium orange, 32mg in 1-cup raspberries and 14mg in 1-cup of blueberries. Being the brightest doesn’t always mean the best!

Low calorie friend

Having low calorie snacks and meal ingredients on hand makes eating healthy food so much easier. The beauty of cauliflower is that it is extremely versatile and can be the base of a delicious soup or curry, an accompaniment to any meal and even a tasty substitute to rice or pasta in the form of the popular cauliflower rice. Versatility aside, one of the incredible benefits of cauliflower is that there are just 48 calories in 1-cup.

Fill up on Fibre

Research shows that fibre is vital to our gut health. It is also one of the keys to fat blasting as fibre does a great job of filling you up and therefore reducing your intake of high fat and calorie foods.

Fibre helps reduce cholesterol and manage blood sugar levels plus it helps to keep us regular. Fibre keeps the system moving by feeding the healthy bugs in the large bowel and speeding up digestion, which helps protect against cancer.

A healthy gut is strongly linked to mood and mental health, so it is great news that cauliflower contains over 5 grams of fibre in every cup.

So what are you waiting for?

Choc-chip Cookies with a Hint of Healthy

What do Choc-chip Cookies have to do with healthy living and high performance?

A lot more than you might think. Firstly, I can’t actually imagine living without the recipe I am about to share with you and secondly, balance is such an important part of living a healthy life isn’t it?

I know that perhaps like me, you will be anxious to get back to the Choc-Chip Cookies but before we do…..Last week, I shared some lupin love with my Chicken, Ricotta and Spinach Lupinsagne, a pretty darn delicious dish. Lupins are almost 40% protein and 40% fibre, with just a little carbohydrate and fat, which makes them a nutrition powerhouse.

To me, it seems a natural progression to go from savoury to sweet and throw them into Choc-Chip Cookies. This recipe has been scribbled on a piece of worn paper for many years in my recipe folder and if I don’t make them most weeks, there is the threat of a riot in my house. I don’t know whose recipe this was originally but if was you, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Aside from the chocolate, the vital ingredient in these Choc-Chip Cookies are the oats. The oats give the cookies a soft chewy texture that matches perfectly with the gooey yumminess of dark chocolate. By the way, don’t be tempted to use milk chocolate as it makes the cookies too sweet and without flavour contrast. For this recipe I substituted The Lupin Co. lupin flakes for the exact amount of oats and the result was exactly the same – delicious. Oats are also a nutrition powerhouse but the lupins have significantly more protein and fibre. This is so important in a Choc-Chip Cookie!
Of course, Choc-Chip Cookies are not designed to be an everyday food (especially in the size that I seem to make them) but as a treat they are divine. The extra protein and fibre in the lupins do fill you up more than the average biscuit and they can also be a handy recovery snack post training (although not required after a walk around the block just in case you were wondering).

Choc-Chip Cookies

Ingredients
125g poly/monounsaturated margarine or butter
175g good quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa), roughly chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 egg
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 cup plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 and 1/4 cups lupin flakes

Method
Preheat the oven to 170 ºC. Line two baking trays with baking paper.

Using electric beaters, beat butter/margarine, sugars and vanilla until pale and thick. Beat in egg until just combined. With a wooden spoon, fold in the lupin flakes and then the sifted flour, baking powder, bicarb soda and then fold the whole lot in. When almost done, gently fold in the chocolate until just combined.

Scoop heaped tablespoons of the mixture about 5cm apart onto the prepared trays, flatten down a little and then bake for approximately 10 minutes or until golden. Don’t worry of the cookies feel or look soft, as they will get crisp when cooled (it is hard to wait but worth it I promise).

Chicken, Ricotta and Spinach Lupinsagne aka Lasagne

Lasagne gets me thinking about Italy, cheesy sauce, accordion music and red and white checked tablecloths. You might not have exactly the same vision but lasagne is a true crowd pleaser and one of those dishes that just makes you sigh with happiness doesn’t it?

Traditionally, lasagne can be loaded with béchamel sauce (delicious yes but high on the fat side of things), sheets of pasta and cheese upon cheese.
That might seem like a good thing (and as an occasional food, it really is) but for an everyday kind of dish, a few tweaks is all it takes to bump up the protein and reduce the fat, to tick the nutrition boxes and turn it into the ideal recovery meal post exercise.

Perfect timing because there is a new protein rich kid on the block, which packs a serious nutrition punch. This little goodie is the humble lupin – a unique legume that contains 40% protein, 40% fibre with a small amount of carbohydrate and fat and is completely gluten free. 85% of the world’s crop of lupins is grown in Western Australia which is pretty cool. Yay for the sandgropers.

So after a bit of experimenting, I have concocted Chicken, Ricotta and Spinach Lupinsagne and it tastes fantastic! This recipe is high in protein and fibre and is packed full of vegetables and flavour. It uses lupin flakes produced by The Lupin Co. which are so versatile and have so much to give our bodies, including a protein punch.

Chicken, Ricotta and Spinach Lupinsagne

Ingredients
1-tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
2 x cloves fresh garlic, minced
2 medium carrots, grated
1 large zucchini, grated
1 x 400g tin canned, diced tomatoes
20 basil fresh leaves
500g lean chicken mince
1-cup chicken stock
1-cup lupin flakes
1kg reduced fat ricotta cheese
150g baby spinach leaves,
2 eggs, beaten
5 x fresh lasagne sheets
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Method
Cook the onion and garlic together in the oil until golden brown and then add the chicken mince and stir until cooked through.

Add the carrot, zucchini, tomatoes, chicken stock and basil, bring to the boil and then simmer for 15-20 minutes until the mixture is reduced a little. While the mixture is simmering, cook the lupins in boiling water and cook for 3 minutes and then drain and rinse in cold water. Just before you take the chicken mixture off the heat – add the cooked lupins and stir well.

Meanwhile, place the spinach leaves in a microwave proof bowl into the microwave and cook for 1 minute until wilted slightly. Once cooled, squeeze out excess water and add to the ricotta along with the beaten eggs. Stir the ricotta mixture until smooth.

Spray a large lasagne dish with cooking oil and place some of the mince mixture on the bottom of the dish followed by lasagne sheets to fit and then half of the mince mixture on top of this followed by half of the ricotta mixture and repeat these steps once more finishing with the ricotta layer.

Cover with foil and cook in a moderate oven for 30 minutes, remove the foil, sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and cook for a further 15 minutes.

Nutrition Per Serve:

Energy 312 calories, protein 27g, fat 12g, carbohydrate 19g, fibre 8g

This Lupinsagne is perfect for an everyday dinner and also a great recovery meal post exercise.

Watch this space for more lupinlicious recipes.

Buon appetito!

How to make Pumpkin Damper

Pumpkin Earlier this week over at Kale and Co., I wrote about the ‘it’ vegetable that we should all be eating – super versatile, orange in colour and so easily paired with both sweet and savoury ingredients. The humble pumpkin is one of my favourites and this scrumptious vegetable has certainly been making itself known over the past few weeks in the lead up to Halloween. You can read more about my friend the pumpkin over at Kale and Co., who do delicious things with the orange one such as – pumpkin almond ‘burgers’ with red rice and herbs or roasted pumpkin with cinnamon and paprika – both of which are a taste sensation. One of my go to recipes featuring pumpkin has been with me for years – moved across the country on a little piece of paper and yet is still firmly glued into my recipe collection. It’s too good and too easy not to share – full of Vitamin A, Vitamin C and fibre, pumpkin damper is a great friend to soup or a side to salad. The kids can help too and love kneading that dough!  

Pumpkin Damper 1-tablespoon poly or monounsaturated margarine 2 teaspoons sugar 1 egg, beaten 3/4 cup reduced fat cheese, grated 2 tablespoons chopped chives 1 ½ cups cooked, mashed pumpkin 1½ cups of self-raising flour

Mix margarine and sugar together and add beaten egg. Add cheese, chives and pumpkin. Add flour until dough is formed and knead into a round shape. Cook in a moderate oven (160 degrees fan forced or 180 degrees regular) for approximately 40 minutes or until cooked.

How to make an easy Ancient Grain Salad

ancient grain salad I do love the discovery of a good salad and this one is a beauty! Full of lovely colour, fibre, protein and Vitamin C and the perfect lunch or side for dinner. Ancient Grain Salad with Pomegranate You’ll need: 1 Cup freekah (green cracked wheat, pronounced freak-ah) ½ cup puy lentils/French green lentils – dry A small handful each of pumpkin seeds, slivered almonds and pine nuts, roasted in oven ½ cup (75gms) currants Large handful of fresh flat leaf parsley and coriander leaves– coarsely chopped ½ Spanish red onion – finely diced 40gm or 2 tablespoons baby capers (drained and rinsed) Juice of 1 large lemon Dash of good quality extra virgin olive oil Salt and cracked black pepper to taste Mix together the following for your dressing: 1 cup Greek style natural yogurt 1 teaspoon of ground cumin (feel free to freshly grind if you like) 1 tablespoon of honey 1 fresh pomegranate To make the salad: Put lentils and freekeh on the boil in two separate saucepans. Bring freekeh to a simmer and cook for about 30mins till tender but still a little of a bite to it. Lentils won’t need quite as long – bring to boil and then simmer for about 20 minutes until tender. Drain and cool both when cooked respectively. Chop up herbs coarsely, onion finely and mix through lentils and freekah when cooled. Squeeze lemon juice on top of salad and fold through gently. Fold through ¾ of the seeds, currants and capers just before serving, reserving the rest of the seeds to decorate. Season with pepper and salt. To serve, put half of the dressing on top of the salad, garnish with remaining seeds and fresh pomegranate seeds. Remaining dressing can go into a small bowl with a spoon to serve.

Top of the Fibre Charts

muffins USA Have you ever tried psyllium husk? Strange they might be spelt but these husks are the portion of the seeds of the plant Plantago Ovata, a native of India and Pakistan.  These little fluffy husks are an indigestible source of soluble fibre and contain 70% more soluble fibre than oat bran, which is very impressive. The soluble fibre in psyllium husks decreases both total and LDL cholesterol by binding to them and taking them out of the body. Nice stealthy work psyllium. To decrease cholesterol levels, you would need to consume the equivalent of two teaspoons, 3 x day (10 grams in total).  Psyllium is quite powerful in the laxative department and is the only ingredient in the fibre product Metamucil. Psyllium may be of interest to you because Australians do not excel in the fibre department and we often don’t get the mix right either. Fibre is made up of soluble and insoluble fibre with the insoluble variety exerting the greatest influence on the large bowel to ensure your intestinal tract is working efficiently. This can be affected by stress, poor eating habits and not enough fluid. My first experience with psyllium husk was when I unwittingly added it to my oats prior to making them into porridge. I was rewarded with a bowlful of concrete. The husk itself can certainly be added to cereal but don’t wander off to have a shower or do something else as you will get to experience the concrete effect too.  Other people prefer to add their psyllium to a glass of water. If you are not keen on either, there is another option. One of my favourite products at the moment is Kellogg’s®All-Bran Fibre Toppers™. They are crunchy little ‘dots’ made with natural wheat bran, oat fibre and psyllium, providing an excellent source of fibre, which helps to promote a healthy digestive system. One serve provides 33% of your Dietary Intake for fibre and you can eat them alone or on top of your favourite cereal or swirled into yoghurt. fibre-topper-feature Don’t forget that fibre needs a friend.  To help it move down your intestinal tract, plenty of water is essential. P.S. For a delicious recipe including these psyllium friendly dotty things check out http://www.fussfreecooking.com/recipe-categories/sugary-treats/banana-all-brand-muffins/

Cinderella or Halloween?

Cinderella and Halloween come straight to mind when I think of the humble pumpkin.  One is a visual of a converted coach hurtling towards a ball with an unsuspecting prince waiting and the other is of a spooky lit up pumpkin face. In reality, we are talking about an orange vegetable of the cucurbitaceae family. Try and say that fast three times, it’s not easy. There are quite a few varieties of pumpkin and they are all very low in calories, excellent sources of fibre, vitamins and minerals plus provide good dose of antioxidants such as leutins, xanthins and carotenes. Pumpkin is very handy as a colour enhancer in a meal and works so well incorporated into a soup.  Hence, my $2 (actually less) meal today is the ubiquitous winter warmer, soup. Red lentil and pumpkin soup 175g red lentils, rinsed 1 kg butternut pumpkin, peeled and chopped 1 brown onion, diced 2 x garlic cloves, crushed 1 teaspoon minced ginger or 1cm piece of fresh ginger 2 x 10g vegetable stock cube 2 teaspoons curry powder (reduce to 1 teaspoon if kids don’t like the spice) 1.5 litres of water 1 tablespoon olive oil Heat oil in large saucepan and cook onion for 2 minutes until slightly soft. Add garlic and curry powder and cook until aromatic. Pour in water, crumbled stock cube, pumpkin and lentils and bring to boil. Turn heat to low and simmer covered for 30 minutes until pumpkin is soft. Once removed from heat, use a stick blender to purée the soup.  Serve with 1/3 cup low fat natural yoghurt and shredded fresh coriander. Serves 4 Cost per serve = $1.67

On the third day….

On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me… Three little penguins.. two pink galahs and a kookaburra in a gum tree. We know that penguins love a cold climate but when in Australia may need some assistance with generating some frosty feelings.  Heath McKenzie depicts the three little penguins getting stuck into some icy poles.  I do love icy poles but try not to eat too many as they are usually pretty high in sugar.  Watermelon and Lime Ice Blocks are a refreshing and somewhat healthier (contains fibre and Vitamin C) alternative worth a try. Perfect for summer. Simple too. Watermelon and Lime Ice Blocks 125g caster sugar 125ml water 1 vanilla pod 600ml watermelon juice (blend watermelon) juice of 2 limes 1.  Put sugar, water and vanilla into a saucepan and heat until sugar dissolves.  Cool, then chill until really cold.  Stir in watermelon and lime juice. 2.  Pour into 12 icy pole moulds or multiple ice cube trays and freeze overnight. Just remember not to get your tongue stuck on them like the three little penguins.